last updated 22/12/2017

BETULA apoiensis 'Mount Apoi'

See B. ermanii 'Mount Apoi'

BETULA 'Cobhay Cream Spire'
We selected this one ourselves from seedlings grown from a cross between B. utilis subsp. albosinensis and B. ermanii. We were impressed by its tidy upright habit and gorgeous cream bark. The classic ermanii selections have long been favourites of mine, but I am aware that their broad habit makes then unsuitable for smaller spaces. Hence our excitement as the characteristics of this one developed.
See it in our Winter Garden.

BETULA 'Cobhay Snow Spire'
Also our own selection, this one is similar to 'Cream Spire' above, differing in its white bark.
See it in our Winter Garden.

BETULA 'Conyngham'
The origin of this one is uncertain, though it is thought to be a hybrid between B. utilis subsp. albosinensis var. septentrionalis and B. pendula. Its habit is certainly consistent with this parentage. The bark changes colour as the tree matures, with shades of whites, pinks and mauves. The unique semi-pendulous habit makes it a wide spreading tree. The prolific production of large catkins is a bonus. This develops into a very attractive tree, but its habit makes it difficult to produce well shaped plants in our windy conditions.

BETULA cordifolia 'Clarenville'
Another name change here - B. cordifolia was previously listed as a variety of B. papyrifera. Selected from wild collected seed in the Clarenville area of Newfoundland, this is quite different to the usual paper birch. I love the way the pale golden-orange bark peels to reveal a creamy white under layer. This is a sturdy but upright tree, with thickly textured heart-shaped leaves, each apparently stamped with deep veins.

BETULA costata
Due to a mix up of stock at a wholesale nursery some years ago, the majority of plants in cultivation with this name are wrong. They are actually B. ermanii 'Grayswood Hill'.

BETULA dahurica ' Maurice Foster'
Rich red shaggy stems peel to reveal a silvery grey underbark. A lovely contrast. Well suited to northern, colder areas. However, this one grows so rapidly and gets so large so quickly, that we seldom propagate it.

BETULA dahurica 'Stone Farm'
A Chinese species usefully more tolerant of drier soils than many other birch. The very dark bark exfoliates in curly cinnamon like flakes to reveal a silvery pink layer beneath. Although still becoming a comparatively large tree, it is the more compact of the two clones which we grow. It has twiggy growth make this a great choice for a more difficult site.

Betula ermanii 

I am fascinated by the tales of the early plant hunters and the adventures of Adolf Erman, who first collected this species in 1830 prior to it being formally described a year later, are as interesting as any. A Berliner by birth, he was a physicist who in 1828 set off to carry out magnetic measurements in Siberia. One thing led to another and it evolved into a true round the world voyage across Russia and on across the Kamchatka peninsula where he joined a ship supplying Russian colonies in Alaska that took him on to San Francisco. From there he headed south, rounding the Horn before heading back to Germany where he wrote up his discoveries. To someone like myself who rarely ventures beyond the gate, this was an epic voyage! 

Anyway, it is thought that B. ermanii as it was named, was not cultivated in Britain for some seventy years, with the original introductions dating from around 1900 thought to be of Japanese provenance. 

Overall, this is perhaps my favourite species, typically forming beautiful large and spreading trees with warm, honey coloured bark, emphasized by large horizontal lenticels, often of richer apricot hues. Typically, their habit contrasts markedly with the majority of the utilis clan. Although the terminal shoots are usually upright, as these loose dominance, so the branches start to arch out and down. In this way the tree becomes wider and more spreading as it matures. Most selections are very free branching and happily form fabulous multi-stemmed specimens. They grow best in an open position. They do not like to be suppressed by other trees, and a lack of light will quickly result in suppression. Indeed, even as their own canopy develops, as the light able to penetrate to the centre diminishes, so the tree will develop its characteristic open structure. This is wonderful because it enables us to enjoy the fabulous bark all through the year, not just in the winter when the limbs are bare of leaf. In our collection, as a species, they also stand out for having the best yellow autumn leaf colours too. 

Nevertheless, there are distinctive characteristics to be found amongst some of the more recent selections, as I will describe below. 

BETULA ermanii 'Blush' 
This very fine selection has distinct pink to orange peeling bark and rich deep yellow autumn colour. There is discussion that this is the same clone as 'Grayswood Hill'. Certainly it is very similar, but we have kept ours separate on the basis that once combined, they would be impossible to separate.
See it in our Winter Garden

BETULA ermanii 'Cobhay Mount Hakkoda'
Our own selection from seed collected on Mount Hakkoda. This is a fabulous tree, more upright in habit than the "classic" ermanii selections, with a much twiggier branch structure. The outer bark is a wonderful copper-orange colour, peeling to reveal warm copper-tan tones beneath. I love the warm subtle colours of this one.

BETULA ermanii 'Fincham Cream'
A fabulous selection with the typical exfoliating bark and graceful habit of the group. This one reveals a lovely creamy bark as the older layers peel away. For a reason that is impossible to pinpoint, this in my favourite cultivar of its type. 
See it in our Quarry Garden where we have planted a trio to give high canopy. I was thrilled to see that they have now gained enough height that the canopy peaks above the quarry rim, with the bright yellow autumn leaf colour now visible from the arboretum on the opposite hill. Wonderfull. 

BETULA ermanii 'Forrest Blush'

see Betula utilis subps. utilis 'Forest Blush'

BETULA ermanii 'Grayswood Hill'
This very fine selection, which we originally obtained from the Savill Gardens at Windsor, has distinct creamy pink to orange peeling bark and vibrant, deep yellow autumn colour.
See it in our Winter Garden.

BETULA ermanii 'Hakkoda Orange'
Originally collected on Mount Hakkoda, northern Honshu, Japan; this selection reveals noticeably more orange bark, and this colouring is reflected in the autumn foliage too. This one has maintained a much more upright habit here. It is very distinctive and beautiful but it does have a major issue. It appears to not like being grafted. Although initially the grafts appear to take, it seems that compatibility is only partial because it has a nasty habit of snapping out at the graft union in adverse weather. As a result of this unfortunate trait, we do not graft ours, we grow them from cuttings so that they are on their own roots. However, they are frustrating difficult to root and therefore are rarely available.
See it in our Quarry Garden.

BETULA ermanii 'Kwanak Weeping'
This lovely graceful tree is much less vigorous than most birch. Unlike some weeping cultivars, it produces a leader, and it is the side branches which weep. Lovely yellow autumn colours and sparkling creamy-white bark complete the display. This is a beautiful but also versatile small tree. It can be grown with a single leader to create a classic tree shape, with a graceful rounded and arching head, or a multi-stemmed specimen can be selected to achieve a truly architectural feature.
See it in our Woodland Walk.

BETULA ermanii 'Mount Apoi'
A certain amount of controversy surrounds the taxonomic status of this one, with some authorities considering it to be representative of its own species B. apoiensis which itself may be a hybrid between B. ermanii and B. fruticosa. It is extremely hardy and surprisingly dwarf, making it in principle an excellent choice for a smaller space. My only caveat thus is that it is naturally very free-branching, developing a multi-stemmed shape all by itself. This is fantastic, but it does mean that its overall habit is quite rounded, being almost as wide as it is tall. In reality therefore it can require more space than something tall and slender. Nevertheless, it is a fabulous plant that deserves to be better known. The dark young bark peels away to reveal a pale silvery tan layer beneath. 

BETULA ermanii 'Mount Zao Purple'
This cultivar is smaller growing than is typical in this species. It is quite unique and a real favourite of mine. It freely develops a fabulous architectural habit, almost like an overgrown bonsai. Typically we have a range of shapes and sizes available, so it is usually possible to select the best plant for a specific requirement; be that a more formal single- trunked small tree, a symmetrical multi-stemmed specimen or a quirky individual of great character. A greater amount of purple develops in the mature bark of older trees, whilst younger individuals feature almost smokey shades of tan, all coupled with prominent horizontal bands of lenticels which create a dramatic striped appearance to the bark. A remarkable tree.
See it in our Woodland Walk and at the top of our Quarry Garden.

BETULA ermanii 'Pendula'

See B. ermanii 'Kwanak Weeping'

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